Darren Palmer Recaps Ford’s Progress on EVs With Retirees

Oct 06, 2023

Ford EVs are bringing customers new capabilities and experiences such as instant torque, Pro Power Onboard and the Mega Power Frunk, and the transition from gas-powered vehicles is as revolutionary as the smartphone, according to Darren Palmer, vice president, Electric Vehicle Programs, Ford Model e.

“You think you know what an EV is because it has four wheels and a steering wheel, but that’s nothing about what it actually is,” he told members of the Ford Retired Engineering Executives (FREE) at a recent meeting at Dearborn Country Club and live streamed online. “In the way that you love what your phone does for you … electric cars are all about that – what they do for you in your life. Whether you’re a technology lover or not, it’s about what it does for you.”

And those who do switch to an EV will notice a difference if they return to driving a gas-powered vehicle – though just two percent of them go back, Palmer said, noting the only other product that has that kind of response is smartphones.

Palmer was a founding member of Team Edison, an internal EV start-up responsible for shaping Ford’s approach to EVs, including the Mustang Mach-E. He has also held positions in Product Development, Product Planning, Manufacturing and Quality in the U.S., U.K. and Germany. Palmer was appointed to his current position in 2022.

With special editions like the F-150 Lightning Platinum Black and the recently revealed Mustang Mach-E Rally, as well as the second-generation electric vehicles in the works, Ford has a leg up on its domestic competitors, Palmer said.

We’re introducing our special editions and showing them while our competitors are still showing their electric cars behind fences that you can’t get to. We’re all quite proud of that.
Darren Palmer

Elaborating on the Mach-E Rally, Palmer said it might remind group members of projects from their career. The project to create Ford’s first rally-inspired electric vehicle was derived from a love of autocross and spun out of the company’s always-on team, Palmer said. It was developed on an accelerated schedule – just over a year – to deliver an EV as comfortable on dirt as on road that is tied to an outdoor lifestyle, something Ford’s competitors are lacking, he said.  

Palmer reiterated Ford’s financial commitment to EVs – $50 billion through 2026 – and highlighted tripled production capacity for the F-150 Lightning, which will help the company reach production of 600,000 units in 2024. While much of the U.S. is still in the “early adopter phase, we’ve seen the promise and customers love them,” Palmer said. “We know that these are going to work.”

While he praised Ford’s first generation of EV products, Palmer acknowledged the competition “is getting much, much stronger and we’re getting ready for that,” he said. “We’re taking nothing as given.” He also teased Ford’s next generation of EVs, including the T3 electric pickup to be built at BlueOval City in Tennessee. In addition to the strength of the company’s future products, the BlueOval Charge Network will also help Ford win EV customers, he said, reiterating the significance of Ford being the first automaker whose vehicles will be eligible to use 12,000 Tesla superchargers, beginning in the first quarter of 2024. The move will double the size of Ford’s charging network.

We were uniquely positioned to adopt the NACS standard and that wasn’t done lightly. That was a shock to the industry … and we did it for our customers.
Darren Palmer

Ford’s adoption of new batteries for the Mustang Mach-E is driving down costs on the vehicle, Palmer said. The company is also learning about customers’ driving behaviors from connected vehicle data. Since Ford launched the transformational electric SUV in 2020, Ford has learned that most owners drive just over 30 miles per day with a trip distance of just five miles.

“That car will serve the needs of about 97% of people in the country,” Palmer said, adding that the instant torque rivals any car on the market. “No matter how fast of a car you’ve driven, you haven’t felt torque response like that.”

FREE group member Robert Mull, who retired in 2006 after 34 years with Ford, appreciated the emphasis Palmer placed on the added capability of Ford’s EVs. Mull, the former executive director of Vehicle Evaluation Verification, has driven plug-in hybrids and plans to go to a full EV in the future.

“(EVs are) a different kind of vehicle,” Mull said. “He’s absolutely right.”